Rating: 5 Stars
Synopsis via Goodreads:
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.
“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.”
This is one of the most unique books I’ve ever read. It has just made its way into my top-ten-favorite-books-of-all-time list.
The star of this book is not Celia or Marco, but is the circus itself. It completely captivated me.
For many books, I feel like the scenario the characters are in and the backdrop is just a . . . sideline. It’s not meant to be paid a lot of attention, but is just there to fill in the gaps in your imagination when it comes to picturing where the character are. The characters themselves are usually the stars of the story, and much more time is dedicated to talking about them and what they look like and what they’re doing, etc, etc.
But that’s not the case here. The circus, the performers, are everything. Much more time is dedicated to writing paragraphs upon paragraphs of the scenery and scents of the circus. Usually, when other authors try to do this, I find myself simply skimming the paragraphs about the circus, wanting to move on and get to the real heart of the matter – Celia and Marco.
That did not happen here. I read every line, every word, sometimes more than once. To call this writing style beautiful and flowing is too ambiguous. It is everything you could possibly want in a novel. It moves you along at a pace that feels right, never deviating from how your mind wants to process the smell of caramel and the sound of the audience applauding the illustrious illusionist.
“I am tired of trying to hold things together that cannot be held. Trying to control what cannot be controlled. I am tired of denying myself what I want for fear of breaking things I cannot fix. They will break no matter what we do.”
The synopsis does not do this book justice. I did not expect to like this book as much as I did. It’s one of those books where you finish it in record time – but still taking enough time to enjoy every word – and then afterwards you just can’t read anything else. You try to pick up something else to read, but you just can’t get your mind away from the circus. It’s addicting, this night circus.
A warning: If you do decide to take my word for it, and decide to read this novel, I believe you’re going to either hate it or love it as much as I do. The reason is because this is a very long novel, and some might say that this is a slow moving plot. To that I say, yes, in some ways I suppose it is, but I thought it was perfect in how it was done. I never felt board, but instead always felt quite . . . melancholy.
That’s the best way I can sum up this novel: melancholy.
If you read it, pay attention to the dates. Your life will be so much easier if you just pay attention to the dates. I cannot stress this enough.
This novel does skip around a lot. Usually that alone would make me board with a novel, but it’s done well here, and as long as you catch a quick glimpse of the date at the beginning of each chapter, you’ll be fine. There are many characters, but they all matter. Do not skim over any of them or cast them aside. They are not your typical sideline characters.
While the synopsis makes it sound like this novel revolves around Celia and Marco – and I suppose it does – it also revolves just as much around so many other characters. But while there are many characters, I never had trouble remembering who was who and why they mattered. It is quite clear with all that.
Celia and Marco and their romance actually plays a much smaller role than I was expecting. I do not think this could be called a romance novel in any way, and while there is indeed romance, it is very subtle and does not really happen until later in the novel. But don’t let that turn you away. Before it does actually happen, there is always this tightly wound cord between the two of them, and the friction and sexual tension between the two of them is a joy to read about. When the romance does finally happen, it does not lose any of it’s appeal, and is bold enough, yet subtle enough, to make it feel much more real and tense then most other romances in novels now-in-days.
“I have tried to let you go and I cannot. I cannot stop thinking of you. I cannot stop dreaming about you.”
The use of magic here is superb. I am not usually a fan of books about magic or witches or any of that. But this is completely different. They are not witches or warlocks or any of that – they are simply members of a circus, people who can to extraordinary things. But there are no tricks here – all of it is real, hidden in shadows of deception and the idea of man-made tricks. There are no tricks of light, no mirrors hidden behind curtains.
But I do not think it is fair to call it magic. The word does come up more than once in the novel, but I think the word magic has too much of a negative connotation. What Celia and Marco do cannot be called magic because in many ways anyone could do what they do. Marco works very hard to be able to do what he does, while Celia has a natural talent to be an illusionist.
They manipulate the world around them. For Celia, this means breaking a clock and then putting it back together, without ever toughing it. For Marco, this means making someone see something that is not really there.
Both of them are heartbreaking characters, which I don’t say lightly. They are beautiful and mysterious in their own right. They make your heart hurt easily, but never actually break it.
“Do you remember all of your audiences?” Marco asks.
“Not all of them,” Celia says. “But I remember the people who look at me the way you do.”
“What way might that be?”
“As though they cannot decide if they are afraid of me or they want to kiss me.”
“I am not afraid of you,” Marco says.
I was very happy with the ending. I was expecting a tragedy, and while I suppose it’s one of those endings that people will have different opinions on – whether it is indeed a tragedy or a happy ending – I believe it is neither. But then again, no one in this novel is either good or evil – it is not that simple. So it is perfect.
“Stories have changed, my dear boy,” the man in the grey suit says, his voice almost imperceptibly sad. “There are no more battles between good and evil, no monsters to slay, no maidens in need of rescue. Most maidens are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves in my experience, at least the ones worth something, in any case. There are no longer simple tales with quests and beasts and happy endings. The quests lack clarity of goal or path. The beasts take different forms and are difficult to recognize for what they are. And there are never really endings, happy or otherwise. Things keep overlapping and blur, your story is part of your sister’s story is part of many other stories, and there in no telling where any of them may lead. Good and evil are a great deal more complex than a princess and a dragon, or a wolf and a scarlet-clad little girl. And is not the dragon the hero of his own story? Is not the wolf simply acting as a wolf should act? Though perhaps it is a singular wolf who goes to such lengths as to dress as a grandmother to toy with its prey.”